Pittston Area’s defense limited Berwick’s shots early, allowing the Patriots to build a comfortable margin that they used to carry them through a sluggish second half in Saturday afternoon’s Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 boys basketball opener.
Mason Gross scored 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked six shots as Pittston Area withstood a 16-point second half to post its sixth straight victory, 46-33.
Meanwhile, Liz Waleski’s 20 points led the Pittston Area girls to a 45 to 40 win Saturday afternoon at Berwick.
Eastyn Ashby added 8 points, Ali Brady 6 and Jackie Rabender 5.
The Lady Patriots expanded a one-point halftime lead to 8 at the end of three periods and then held on for the win. Waleski hit 6 of 6 free throws in the final minutes to seal the victory.
In the boys’ contest, Tyler McGarry added 11 points while James Emmett had 10 points and seven rebounds for the Patriots (6-3 overall).
Berwick fell to 1-7 overall in the game, which was postponed from Friday night because of weather.
“I hate to blame the weather,” Pittston Area coach Alan Kiesinger said, “but we had a couple of days out of the gym and the start time of 2 o’clock. I think our kids are creatures of habit. They’re not used to a 2 o’clock game.”
Pittston Area, which plays at Hazleton Area Tuesday and is home with Dallas Thursday, played the entire second half without point guard Michael Schwab.
Kiesinger said Schwab is day-to-day after hurting his hip on a Berwick screen in the first half. Schwab re-entered the game briefly in the second quarter, then sat out the entire second half and left the bench on crutches when the game was over.
The Patriots held the Bulldogs scoreless on just two shots in the first 5:22 while forcing six turnovers and taking a 7-0 lead.
Berwick’s only basket of the quarter came on a 3-pointer by Josh Edwards, but Pittston Area responded with the last seven points for a 14-3 lead after one quarter.
Emmett hit two 3-pointers and Gross also scored six points in the fourth quarter.
The defensive effort carried over into the second quarter when Gross blocked four shots and Pittston Area did not allow a basket from inside the 3-point arc while extending its lead to 30-12. McGarry hit a pair of 3-pointers in the quarter.
“Defensively, we did a nice job in the first quarter, particularly,” Kiesinger said. “And, we did a good job in the second quarter, too.”
Already without another starting guard, Mike Delaney, because of a knee injury suffered in the Wyoming Area game, the Patriots went with different offensive combinations while Schwab sat out the second half. They played at a slower pace with the lead, but also slipped to 7-for-20 (35 percent) shooting after going 12-for-30 (40 percent) and hitting four of their five 3-pointers in the first half.
“That changes our lineup big time,” Kiesinger said. “We have to go big and some our bigs have to be guards.”
Kiesinger said the two guards he brought in off the bench – Kyle Gattuso and Ryan Hannon – played well. Although the shortest player on the floor, Hannon grabbed four rebounds in the second half while also contributing a steal and a basket.
Schwab and Hassan Maxwell, who spent some time at point guard in the second half, each finished with four assists.
Berwick closed within 11 points twice in the fourth quarter.
Tyler Evans came off the bench to hit 3-pointers in the second, third and fourth quarters while leading the Bulldogs with 13 points. Josh Edwards hit a pair of 3-pointers while finishing with 10.